Obama Reaches Out to Iran With Holiday Video Message
Debbi Wilgoren, in Washington, and Thomas Erdbrink, in Tehran, report:
President Barack Obama sent a videotaped holiday greeting to Iran today that hailed the country's contributions to world civilization and told its people and leaders that the United States seeks engagement with Tehran "that is honest and grounded in mutual respect."
The message, which contrasts sharply with the anti-Iran rhetoric of the previous administration, speaks of a "new day" in which Washington and Tehran could move beyond three decades of distrust and strained relations and build constructive ties.
At the same time, Obama warns that Iran cannot "take its rightful place in the community of nations . . . through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization."
"And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create," Obama says.
The message, issued at midnight in Washington, coincides with the ancient festival of Nowruz, which marks the start of spring and the Persian New Year. It follows promises by Obama on the campaign trail and in his initial months in office to engage Iran more directly as a way to end decades of confrontation and address Iran's links to terror groups and its nuclear program.
In the holiday message issued today, Obama took care to use the full name of the country -- the Islamic Republican of Iran -- apparently as a sign of respect. Two weeks ago, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Iran should be included at a high-level conference on Afghanistan being organized under U.S. auspices later this month.
Posted at 7:54 AM ET on Mar 20, 2009
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